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ioo                           THE GAY GENIUS

entire court, not so much by his drastic and extensive economic plans
and policies as by his arbitrary habit of cashiering all censors who
criticised them. The right to criticism of public policies was challenged.
The foundation of the governmental structure was being undermined,,
A sensitive spot in the body politic had been touched. All officialdom
was dismayed, and friends began to desert him.

The issue of the purge of'the censorate was in itself enough to cause
the withdrawal of support and the resignation of the government
leaders. The imperial censorate was an old institution in the Chinese
government, whose purpose was to represent public opinion and con-
stantly check and criticise the ruling regime. It was held as essential
to a good government that free criticism should be made readily avail-
able to the emperor so that the state of public opinion could be
properly reflected. In consequence of its position, the censorate had
tremendous powers and responsibilities and could overthrow an admin-
istration when die censors attacked it hard enough. It was a some-
what lax and not too well defined method for bringing about changes
in the government personnel and policies, acting in somewhat the same
way as the modern press. The difference in ancient China was that
there was no legal protection for the censorate or for the rights of the
opposition, but only the established tradition that a "good" emperor
should be liberal towards criticism; whether he cared for such a good
reputation was up to the emperor himself. If he did not choose to
exercise moral restraint, he could constitutionally degrade, punish,
torture, or kill the censors and their entire families. Many did so. The
censors were placed in the impossible position of having the official duty*
to admonish both the government and the emperor himself without
any -constitutional protection of their personal liberties. But as in
modern times there are always editors with a sense of responsibility
to the public who are brave enough to defy a totalitarian regime at
the risk of imprisonment and death, so there were always censors who
braved corporal punishment, flogging, and even death to carry out their
duties to the people. This is particularly true of the Eastern Han and
the Ming periods, when there were censors who, having written their
protests against a vile premier and knowing that they were only court-
ing death, hanged themselves before they sent in their letters of pro-
test. These cdnsors went up to battle like soldiers; as soon as one fell,
another rose to take his place. Good emperors who loved a good name
would be careful in their treatment of these censors, earning great fame
and popularity for themselves, but bad administrations were anxious
to silence the censors just as modern dictators find it necessary to
muzzle the press.

Wang Anshih had started his administration with great expectations
the elder statesmen.